Searching for the best time to visit Japan? The answer’s anything but simple. Straddling several climactic zones, Japan doesn’t wallow in eternal spring and summer or split up its year between a wet and a dry season. Nope. The weather in Japan is a tad more complicated than that.
Figuring out when to go to Japan, you’ll see that your trip can vary anywhere between the cool humid temperate climate of Hokkaido in the north to the warm tropical rainforest in the Yaeyama Islands to the south. The massive variation can be surprising, especially if you’re used to the less extreme temperature differentials elsewhere in East Asia.
Not sure when to travel to Japan? Plan the perfect trip with this complete Japan weather guide including recommendations on the best months to visit Japan along with where to go, what to expect & what to wear by season and by month.
When to go to Japan: Weather overview
The weather in Japan fits into four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. In general, summer in Japan is hot & humid and winter is cool. Spring and autumn fall somewhere between. Unfortunately, this isn’t much help for planning a trip to Japan!
One of the first things to know before travelling to Japan is that there’s a BIG swing in temperatures & weather conditions throughout the year. Travelling throughout Japan, the climate varies significantly even between regions.
Add to that the all-too-real possibility of natural disasters like tsunamis, typhoons, and earthquake and you’ll see why tracking weather in Japan and choosing the best time to visit Japan is such a challenge. (Just ask the Japan Meteorological Agency!)
While it won’t substitute digging deeper into the climates of each region and checking Japanese weather forecasts before you head out, below I’ve provided a general overview of weather in Japan throughout the year by season and by month.
In each section, you’ll find recommendations on where to visit in Japan and what to wear to help you plan your Japan itinerary whenever you decide to go.
Seasons in Japan
When is spring in Japan?
Spring in Japan falls between March and May.
What to expect in Japan in spring?
Coming off of the cool winter months, the temperatures throughout Japan begin to rise as March rolls in. Early spring remains cool in northern Japan. The south, on the other hand, begins to return to its balmy warmth.
Spring is one of the best times to visit Japan as the plum and cherry blossoms are in full swing. The cherry blossom season changes from year to year but usually peaks between late March and mid-April. You can check the Japan National Tourist Association’s official website for the official cherry blossom forecast when it’s released.
As you might predict, late April and early May is one of the busiest times of year to visit Japan. Aside from the cherry blossoms, there’s a string of national holidays forming Japan’s famous Golden Week. You’ll need to book accommodations and tickets for your trip to Japan well ahead at this time of year to avoid disappointment.
Deciding what to wear in Japan in spring? A lightweight rain jacket and light sweater should suffice throughout Japan for most of season. In northern Japan and at the beginning of the season, you’ll want to bundle up more. Pack a softshell coat or fleece jacket and extra layers of warmer clothing.
Spring festivals & holidays
- Golden Week: late April to early May
- Showa Day: April 29th
- Constitution Day (Kenpo kinenbi): May 3rd
- Green Day (Midori no hi): May 4th
- Children’s Day (Kodomo no hi): May 5th
When is summer in Japan?
Summer in Japan is from June to August.
What to expect in Japan in summer?
It’s the hottest and most humid time of the year in Japan. Although it’s the busiest time of year for international tourists, summer isn’t one the most comfortable seasons to travel to Japan.
The beginning in June, in particular, is one of the rainiest times of the year. In the heat & humidity, finding adventures in the cooler mountain areas makes travelling more comfortable in summer.
If visiting Japan in summer, be aware that the summer months kick-off typhoon season in Japan. The typhoon season in Japan generally runs from July to October. The bulk of the fury, however, often hits Japan between the months of August and September.
In the dead heat of summer, you’ll want to go light with your clothing. Aim to bring along lightweight travel clothes that’ll keep you cool in the humidity.
You should also, surprisingly enough, pack a light sweater or cardigan in one of these recommended travel daypacks for the over-air-conditioned restaurants and stores you’ll find all over Japan. Since rain is inevitable in Japan’s summer heat, bringing along an ultralight rain jacket is also a great idea.
Summer festivals & holidays
- Gion Matsuri (Kyoto)
- Tenjin Matsuri (Osaka)
- Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori)
- Awa Odori
When is autumn in Japan?
Autumn in Japan lasts between September and November.
What to expect in Japan in autumn?
In autumn, temperatures throughout Japan begin to settle down from the extreme heat of summer. Fall is one of the best times to travel around Japan for enjoying outdoor activities. You’ll get to relax in cool breezes among the changing leaves and fall foliage.
Thanks to the beautiful autumn scenery, fall is also great time of year to go hiking in Japan. You’ll also have the best chance of catching scenes of the iconic (and elusive) Mount Fuji at their clearest.
Similar to spring, you’ll want to pack a light jacket and light sweaters in your travel backpack. During the day, you should be able to get away with a long-sleeved shirt or even t-shirt on warmer days. You should plan to dress in layers, just in case. Don’t forget to pack a comfortable and durable pair of hiking shoes if you’re planning to hike.
Autumn festivals & holidays
- Kichijoji Autumn Festival
- Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri
- Sapporo Autumn Fest
- Nagasaki Kunchi Festival
- Jidai Matsuri
- Kurama Fire Festival
When is winter in Japan?
Winter in Japan is between December and February.
What to expect in Japan in winter?
As expected, winter is the coolest season in Japan. It’s also generally the driest season of the year in Japan. The one exception is Hokkaido. The regular snowfall in Japan’s northernmost island during winter offers plenty of incentives for winter sports enthusiasts to visit including Japan’s best skiing.
Winter also hosts a handful of national holidays including Japan’s national day, National Foundation Day, celebrated on February 11th, and the Emperor’s Birthday on February 23th or 24th. Be sure to plan accordingly if visiting Japan around these days.
Besides your usual indoor clothes, you’ll need a warm overcoat and warm sweaters in most areas of Japan in winter. Layering a fleece jacket with a waterproof outer shell is perfect for taking on the ski slopes.
The exception to this rule is in the southern islands. Throughout most of the winter, you should still be able to get away with a light jacket or sweater.
Winter festivals & holidays
- Nozawa Onsen Dosojin Matsuri
- Sapporo Snow Festival
- Otaru Snow Light Path Festival
- Nagasaki Lantern Festival
Japan Weather By Month
- Overview: The weather in January is generally dry and sunny. With the exception of New Year, the crowds throughout Japan are smaller than in other months. Average lows are between -8ºC in Sapporo to 14ºC in Naha with average highs of -1ºC and 19ºC.
- Where to go: Northern Japan sees a lot of snowfall, making it the perfect destination for winter sports like skiing. If you want to escape the cool temperatures, Southern Japan is relatively mild in January.
- Overview: Not all that different from January, February in Japan is wonderfully dry and sunny. Average low temperatures hover between -7ºC in Sapporo to 14ºC in Naha. Average highs are between 0ºC and 19ºC from north to south. Japan’s national holiday (National Foundation Day) and the Emperor’s Birthday also fall in February.
- Where to go: Like January, aim for the winter sports wonderland of Hokkaido or the alpine regions. Seeing small Japanese villages blanketed by snow or dipping into an authentic onsen experience with slightly milder temperatures than January make February the perfect month for anyone wanting to visit Japan in winter! The famous Sapporo Snow Festival also takes place over seven days in February.
- Overview: Conditions get much milder in the first official month of spring in Japan. Plum trees and cherry blossoms start to bloom in the southern parts of Japan near the end of the month. Average lows drop anywhere from -4ºC in Sapporo to 16ºC in Okinawa while average highs throughout most of the country sit between 4ºC to 21ºC.
- Where to go: The winter sports season is at its tail-end during March. Most Japanese cities begin to de-thaw from winter and are pleasant to walk around as long as you’re properly dressed. Avoid travelling towards in late March as school holidays kick in.
- Overview: Even milder than March, April is one of the best times to go to Japan. By now, sakura season is in full force. Cherry blossoms bust out incredible scenes all over the country. Average daytime highs jump up to 11ºC in Sapporo and 24ºC in Naha while average lows sit at 3ºC and 19ºC.
- Where to go: Other than Hokkaido, nearly everywhere in Japan is full bloom by April. In fact, April is perhaps the best time to visit Tokyo and other big Japanese cities for its combination of mild temperatures, sunny day, drier conditions, and the peak of cherry blossom season. Keep the crowds in mind as late April brings Golden Week, the biggest domestic travel period of the year. You should book well in advance if you’re planning to travel during the Golden Week holidays.
- Overview: Temperatures continue to rise into May, making it one of the most pleasant months of the year to travel to Japan. The vegetation throughout Japan has already become thick and lush. Temperatures averages hover between lows of 8ºC and 22ºC, and highs of 17ºC and 26ºC in Sapporo and Naha respectively.
- Where to go: Most of Japan is pleasant to travel through in May. The exception is Okinawa where the rainy season is starting. With the exception of Golden Week at the beginning of the month, the crowds are smaller in May in Japan. Tackling the busiest tourist areas is smart in May. It’s the perfect month to dig into all the best things to do in Kyoto and check out the top attractions in Osaka. May is also the perfect time to start flexing your Japan rail pass.
- Overview: Rainfall picks up significantly in early June as rainy season hits. The temperatures in Japan in June also begin to climb from the mild conditions of May. Average lows range from 12ºC in the north in Sapporo to 25ºC in the south in Naha. Highs hover around 21ºC and 29ºC for the two cities.
- Where to go: Hokkaido is the driest Japanese tourist destination during June, and one of the most pleasant places to visit. Escaping cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto for hot springs resorts is a good idea in June.
- Overview: Rainy season in Japan is all but finished by the end of July. Throughout Japan, the heat and humidity in July can be off-putting. Temperatures in Japan rise even more with average lows in Sapporo sitting at 17ºC and at 26ºC in Naha. High temperatures are even bigger with Sapporo hitting an average of 25ºC and Naha blazing at 31ºC.
- Where to go: Finding refuge at higher elevations will keep you cool during the heat of July. Launching a one week in Hokkaido itinerary (or more!) is a great choice in July. Be sure to plan your trip around the school holidays, which start in late July and extend into August.
- Overview: Like other summer months, August in Japan is hot and humid and generally uncomfortable. Towards the end of the month, typhoon season starts to roll into Japan. Needless to say, this is not an optimal time to travel to Japan. Average temperatures soar to average lows of 19ºC in Sapporo and 26ºC in Naha with average highs of 26ºC and 31ºC.
- Where to go: With central Japan mired in extreme heat and humidity, Hokkaido and other elevated areas are your best bet for staying comfortable. August is high season for Japanese domestic travel. Be sure to book your accommodations in Japan ahead of time.
- Overview: The heat and humidity in Japan continue into September with a little respite. Typhoon season is usually in full swing, slamming the coast with a flurry of foul conditions. Average temperatures throughout the country range from lows of 14ºC in Sapporo and 25ºC in Naha to highs of 22ºC and 30ºC respectively.
- Where to go: With the possibility of typhoons, the coastal areas aren’t the most pleasant places to visit in Japan in September. Travelling to Honshu, Japan’s main island, or Hokkaido works better. By September, high tourism season in Japan is over. You’ll enjoy a little extra breathing room through the country. Digging into Tokyo’s best tourist attractions is a great idea in September.
- Overview: In October, Japan becomes more comfortable to travel in thanks to a reduction in the heat and humidity. It’s still warm enough, however, to enjoy yourself outside without covering up too much. Average temperatures get as low as 7ºC in Sapporo and 23ºC in Naha while highs hover around the 16ºC and 28ºC marks.
- Where to go: October is one of the top months to explore Japan to its fullest. Although the far north starts to get a little cooler, the early explosion of fall colours makes a good argument for October being the best time to visit Hokkaido. Staying in the three major tourist cities—Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto—is more comfortable in October than in September.
- Overview: For its mild temperatures and low rainfall, November gets a huge thumbs-up for travelling to Japan. By now, the autumn foliage is in full force and the leaves have erupted into a torrent of fall colours. High season is officially behind you, and you’ll find Japan much quieter than in other times of the year. Average temperatures dip to lows of 1ºC in Sapporo and a still comfortable 20ºC in Naha. Average highs of 8ºC in Sapporo and 24ºC in Nara really begin to show the temperature gap between north and south.
- Where to go: Hokkaido’s plummeting temperatures might be off-putting for most (non-Canadian!) travellers. Honshu is still relatively mild in November and is the perfect place to witness the Japanese autumn colours in full force. Under the fall colours, this could very well be the best time to visit Kyoto! With the relatively lower tourist numbers, this is also a fantastic month to stay in Tokyo at relatively more reasonable prices. November is also a fantastic time to visit the Mount Fuji area as its often at its clearest in this dry and mild month.
- Overview: Colder than November but still dry, December isn’t such a bad month for visiting Japan. Average temperatures start to dip even more with Sapporo seeing lows of -4ºC and Naha hitting 16ºC. Average highs in Sapporo only reach a chilly 2ºC while Naha still has spring-like conditions at 21ºC.
- Where to go: If the colder temperatures don’t bother you, the cities of Honshu should be quiet during most of December. Northern Japan is a little too chilly for most casual travellers. But the end of the month sees the winter sports season gearing up; it’s the perfect time to launch a Hokkaido itinerary! To escape the cold, head down to the warmer climes of Okinawa.
The verdict: When is the best time to travel to Japan?
The best month to visit Japan is either November or April.
Why visit in November?
Overall, travelling to Japan in November is your best choice. The biggest reason is simple: the weather. Unlike the wet, hot and humid months that precede it, November is an excellent compromise between warmth and dryness.
Sure, November isn’t filled with balmy t-shirt-wearing days. But what you’ll lose in heat you’ll make up for in both lower precipitation and elbow room.
And let’s not forget the fall colours: November is the perfect time of year in Japan for that, too!
Why visit in April?
It’s a real toss up. Although November might inch out April by a slight margin, it’s easy to see why travelling to Japan in April is also fantastic idea.
April is the best time to witness Japan’s famous cherry blossoms in full bloom. Walking the streets of Kyoto or through a park in Tokyo at this time of year is an experience everyone should have in their life.
And then there’s the weather.
Along with November, April is one of the most comfortable months to go to Japan. There’s relatively little rain in most areas of Japan in April. The temperatures in most Japanese cities are also mild.
The only downfall of travelling to Japan in April is the crowds. With the cherry blossoms in full swing, spring school holidays, and Golden Week, April can be a busy time in Japan. You’ll need to plan ahead if you decide to visit Japan in April.